What’s the Deal: Have You Noticed Those Sunflowers Along Michigan Freeways?
Over the weekend I was headed back to Kalamazoo after visiting my hometown of Allegan and during my drive I noticed something I'd never seen before: a new patch of sunflowers!
But this wasn't just a row of sunflowers in someone's garden, it was a field of flowers in the median along US-131. As beautiful a sight as it is, I can't help but wonder why it's there in the first place? Turns out I'm not the only one who's curious!
Ashlie Babbitt, member of the Facebook group Allegan County Informed recently asked,
I noticed on the south westside of US-131 and M89 in Plainwell has a big field of sunflowers growing in the middle of the on and off ramp just kind of curious on how they got there and why they were even put there don't get me wrong its really cool...but just curious
Turns out there's a very practical and beautiful reason behind it. Any guesses?
It's for the bees!
Pollinator Habitat Management Program
In an effort to save pollinators and protect their habitats, Michigan's Department of Transportation (MDOT) is working on a new Pollinator Habitat Management Program.
According to MDOT, 30% of all crop production and 90% of wild plants rely on pollinators for reproduction. In Michigan most of our fruits and vegetables rely on honeybees to pollinate them.
Sadly there has been a rapid decline in bee/pollinator populations over the years due to declining habitats and other factors like pesticides, climate change, and parasites. That's why places like Ypsilanti have become a designated "Bee City" and Ann Arbor residents participate in "No Mow May." It's all in an effort to conserve the pollinator population!
As it turns out, Michigan's roadsides are the perfect place to help facilitate growth among the pollinators. Think about it--we're not really using those roadsides for anything else! Says MDOT,
Roadsides often have diverse flora that is beneficial for pollinators...[and] offer a wide variety of vegetation types, including herbaceous, shrub, and tree species, which is important for supporting a healthy pollinator population.
As part of its pollinator program MDOT will:
- Avoid using insecticides and strategically schedule herbicide application
- Reduce mowing
- Manage and implement plant diversity along roadsides
- Work with adjacent property owners and local communities
- Implement special provisions on construction activities to protect pollinators
It cannot be stressed enough how important pollinators are to our livelihood and I'm so glad out state is taking a proactive approach to protecting pollinators here in the Mitten. Keep an eye out for these amazing sunflower fields on your next Pure Michigan road trip!